27 August 2005

Son dies four days after being accepted into university

Daily Ireland

By Laura McDaid

The mother of a west Belfast teenager who died four days after receiving his A-Level results has described her family’s devastation over his loss.
David McKenna (18) who suffered from Asbergers syndrome, a form of autism, achieved his dream of being accepted into Queen’s University, Belfast three days before he suffered a serious epileptic attack and died on Monday morning.
His distraught mother Isobel, who found David in his bedroom after becoming concerned that he hadn’t risen at his usual time, said she is still coming to terms with the fact that her son has died.
“It’s been the most difficult week of my life,” she said. “I can’t fully believe that he’s gone. We’re all completely broken hearted.”
The support of local people over the last week has provided huge comfort to the McKenna family, including David’s father Francis, and his eight brothers and sisters.
Over 250 mass cards lay in the front room of their home in Denewood Park off the Glen Road. “The front door has been open all week,” said Mrs McKenna. “People have rallied around us every day, offering support. We couldn’t believe the number of people who attended his funeral. Hundreds came to pay their respects. It was a great credit to him. He was such a good and loving wee boy who was liked by a lot of people and dealt so well with his illness.”
Pointing to a picture of David at a wedding two years ago, Mrs McKenna explained that his pose was characteristic of the gentle teenager: “A lot of photos were being taken of the guests below, but because of his Asberger’s syndrome, David never felt comfortable with large crowds or flashing cameras. He preferred to stand by and watch. This picture was taken without him knowing, and to me it just sums him up – happy and content watching the crowd below.”
Although David was epileptic, he did not suffer from regular attacks. The last occasion was on the night before a geography GCSE, which caused him to miss his examination the following morning.
His family said the attack which lead to his death on Monday was “a complete and utter shock”.
Pupils and staff of David’s former school, St Mary’s CBS on the Glen Road, Belfast were also devastated by the news of his death. A large number of them attended his funeral mass at St Teresa’s Church on Thursday. Principal Kevin Burke said yesterday: “It was a huge shock to all of us. David was a quiet, unassuming young lad who was well liked in his year, and so dedicated to his studies. He worked extremely hard to get the A-Level results he needed for Queen’s. It’s been an extremely tough week for his friends who are obviously finding his death difficult to come to terms with.”
St Mary’s CBS will hold a memorial service for David after the school re-opens in September.

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